I Open My Eyes And Pray – Chapter

Last Note 2 sm

 

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I OPEN MY EYES AND PRAY

 

(This time I’m inserting the complete chapter because the end is needed for the beginning. If you do a search on the title, other chapters will pop up. anything with the book cover on it is part of the second draft. Anything else has good info, but I’m rewriting the entire book)

A newspaper and magazine began arriving in the mail in February. Sonni told him she took out subscriptions for him to help him understand his life. Jamie needed to look at his life from a different angle. He had only known one way of thinking. There was a God in the universe who made everything, controlled everything, kept an eye on you, and had a plan for your life – if you loved and worshiped only him. If you didn’t you went to hell. As far as he knew he was already there.
     That was the key. He had to love God and make Him the center of his life. God demanded that there be no other gods before him. So he knew about other God’s. Everything happened because of him, even if your life ended up in a bad place like prison.
     God supposedly created the sun and the moon and the planets – the whole shebang. If he didn’t believe that, he would die and go to hell. That was enough to scare him into believing it was true. Better to be safe than sorry, he thought.
     Recently, when he had studied Islam he learned different, interesting ideas, but it was still a God based, Supreme Being religion, except it was Allah you worshiped. Both were far away in the universe so you were expected to have faith with no answers because it had been passed down through many generations. But did that make it true? People believed in one or the other but they couldn’t both be true, right? Each had a different way of thinking about life and death.
     Jamie got into Islam because there was a community of brothers at the prison who took him in and helped him study. He liked it because they were into peace, not violence. He didn’t want to fight and it always seemed to follow him. Maybe he could learn discipline, but when he was moved to a different prison and wasn’t around them anymore there was no one to keep him on target. Praying five times a day? It was hard to keep it up by himself and he slacked off.
     Sonni didn’t tell him he was wrong or that he should stop doing it. He needed to find his own way. But little bit at a time she told him things. She didn’t tell him at first it was the way Buddhists think, because a lot of it was plain common sense when he thought about it. She gave him different options to think about.
     It caused him to be unhappy when he thought about the mess of he made of things? It didn’t have to go this way. He knew it was his own fault he ended up here, but he didn’t know how to look at it deeper than that. Why did he do things that caused him to lose so many years of his life and have to live in a place that was a living hell?
     Buddhism said if you make a cause you get an effect. Everything about his life was caused by something. It didn’t happen out of the blue. If he could figure this out maybe he could ’cause’ it to go in a better direction.
     What made him who he was in the first place? What made him different from the next person? Did God make him with epilepsy? If so it was a cruel joke.
     He did know he didn’t have to die to go to hell, because he was already there, with a bunch of other dudes. Most of them thought they were victims and weren’t really responsible for being here.
     It didn’t take rocket science to understand he needed to change his thinking or when he got out he might do the same crazy things that got him put in here. He needed to find better friends. It started with the people you chose to be in your life. But was it as easy as that? How do you meet the right people? You couldn’t look inside them to see who they were. People hid parts of themselves so it couldn’t be seen. Jamie didn’t think he was going to meet the right people in here.
     This Buddhist thinking could get pretty deep and he knew so little. It was like peeling layers of an onion. It got harder and harder to peel each layer and the smell got stronger as he faced parts of himself he didn’t like.
     He prayed and prayed to God to help him and nothing changed. He was told he needed more faith. How much faith did it take for God to notice he was hurting? The chaplain told him that is what it means to have faith, but so far his faith didn’t produce any good results. His life only got worse and worse. It was time to look at other options.
     Some of the articles in this new magazine made him feel like he could change his life, but first he had to change how he thought he ended up here. He needed to understand. It sounded so easy, but it wasn’t. He could change his thinking one minute, but if a guard mouthed off at him his anger popped out real fast before he could stop it.
     It was easy to fall into a victim way of thinking. He might deserve being here but that didn’t mean he deserved to be treated badly, like he wasn’t worth the space he took up.
He liked reading the weekly newspaper, the World Tribune, and the magazine, Living Buddhism. Did he believe everything he read? He didn’t know. He didn’t understand some of it but he was trying. Sonni said she had been studying this for a long time, so he was willing to listen. He wouldn’t understand everything right away.
     In lots of ways it was like Christianity, teaching you how to be a better person, but instead of praying to God to fix things he knew he had to fix things himself. He had the time to work it out. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do.
     Sonni was in the hospital a lot right now, sick most of the time. She was slowly climbing the transplant list. It wouldn’t be long now. He was sure she was doing a lot of chanting to keep her confidence high. But he was still worried about her and wished he could do something to help.
     All of her letters came through the Jpay system. She was having trouble typing because her hands shook from the medications. She wasn’t able to hold a pen anymore to write, so she picked out what she wanted to say one key at a time with one finger. She said it took her a long time to type a letter.

Jamie tried to turn off his brain. It hurt from so much thinking. Kicking back on his bunk he tried to think about his future instead of the past or present. Changing the past was impossible, but maybe he could do better at creating a future for himself in his brain.
Thing is, he would have never learned about this on his own, yet it makes sense. What if there had been no Sonni? What would he be thinking right now? Would he be praying? Probably, because he didn’t know anything else to do. If it was up to God to change his life he would do it when and if he was ready. It’s not up to us when that is.
     Buddhists pray, too – while they chant. But they don’t pray for something in the universe to fix them. They pray for the wisdom to understand what they need to do to fix themselves.
     Either God thinks you’re worthy or he doesn’t. Sure, he knew the phrase, you reap what you sow, but it wasn’t really taught or explained because God could always override it if he wanted. He could change a bad thing and make it disappear, but he never jumped in and changed any of the bad stuff that happened to him. God doesn’t answer all prayers so how do you know if it’s pointless to pray about something?
     Jamie had to think deeper about why he was here because it wasn’t by accident. He needed to change what he did because he never wanted to come back here, or any other prison, again. Prison made him think about his life and the ball was in his court to make it change.
     A lot of dudes ended up with another prison sentence after they got out, even though they said they were serious about doing things different and staying clean. Some had families and wanted to be better fathers. But it wasn’t always that easy and they ended up inside again. Why did that happen? Was it because they started doing the same things again that got them in trouble in the first place? Did they go back to the same friends? Maybe they couldn’t make enough money. It was hard to get a good job as an x-felon. Or maybe their old life was too tempting. It could be as simple as breaking parole; getting caught with someone who had a gun or being in the wrong place. Maybe they missed a meeting with their parole officer.

He didn’t want that to happen to him.

Jamie picked up the magazine that came in the mail today. He rolled his blanket into a pillow and lay down on the floor. After reading for a while he decided to chant a little. He told Sonni he would. It did make him feel better. It took deep breaths to chant and that helped him relax. He tried to block things out in his mind and think about positive things he wanted to happen when he got out.
     He never thought doing something like this would be interesting. It was like meditating and he enjoyed doing it. Could he really use chanting to improve himself? He felt it helped him focus his thoughts. That was a start.
     The magazine had articles about experiences people had when they set a goal and chanted to reach it. He liked reading those stories.
     There is a man who is the leader of the people who practice this type of Buddhism. There is more than one kind of Buddhism just like there are many different kinds Christianity and lots of different churches. His name is Daisaku Ikeda. He teaches the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. There is also Zen, Tibetan and Shinto Buddhism and others. They aren’t the same, just like Mormons aren’t like Catholics.
     “Nam myoho renge kyo is like the roar of a lion. Therefore what illness can be an obstacle,” Jamie read aloud from a page in the magazine.
     Reading the words was easy. He could skim it and move on, but there had to be a deeper meaning. If he didn’t take the time to try to understand it would be pointless.
     A lion is powerful – King of the jungle. When a lion roars animals stop and listen. So chanting is like a powerful roar that goes out into the universe. Reading the article he learned that the power of chanting can break through obstacles. An illness isn’t always being sick. It is anything that has the power to defeat you.
     The hardest thing about living your life alone, stuck in a small cell, is there is nothing to do but think. No matter how hard he tried not to, it was impossible to stop his brain from latching on to every thought that went though it. It was exhausting.

Jamie looked up toward the window. He couldn’t see much but he knew the sun was out. It was a good time of year. April was was one of the few months where it wasn’t too hot or too cold. Daytime and night hours were both comfortable. March wasn’t bad, either, but come May you could feel the heat start to rise. It would be good if he could be taken outside for rec. He’d like to see the sun. It got depressing being inside too much never getting any fresh air.
     Today was commissary. The guards should be coming soon to take him down. It usually happened once a month, unless they were on lockdown. Then it was canceled. There was a little money in his account that Sonni sent. He needed to get hygiene – deodorant, soap and some stamps if he had enough. If he runs out of stamps they’ll still send letters, but they’ll take the money back the next time Sonni sends any. What he really wanted was some chocolate. That put a smile on his face. Chocolate tasted like freedom If he closed his eyes when he ate it.
     Jamie got up and stood at the sink with a couple pieces of dirty clothing. He soaked the shirt he had taken off this morning when he did his bird bath at the sink. Using his last tiny piece of soap, he scrubbed the shirt the best he could and let it soak in the water a few minutes before rinsing it out. He hung it over the edge of the sink to dry while he waited for the guard to come and cuff him.
     When he could, Jamie washed his own clothes. He doubted if soap was put in the washers. Either they were cutting costs or the inmates running the huge commercial washers couldn’t be bothered.
     They also crammed the clothing in the washers so tight he doubted water could get through it and get everything wet, let alone washed and rinsed. When he was given clean clothes, like after a shower, they always smelled like the men who wore them before him. Even when he didn’t have enough soap he still rinsed them out. The water that came out of the faucet often had a bad smell so his clothes never smelled good, like he remembered when he was young and his mom did laundry.
     Jamie heard the guards stop at his cell door. There were always two when they had to take him somewhere. He turned his back to the door and waited for the food tray slot to open and put his hands through it to be cuffed. He moved away from the cell door and turned around.
     It was uneventful. The other guard felt him up like normal to make sure he wasn’t hiding nothing and put the chains on his ankles. Off they went. He forgot what it felt like to stride down the hallway at his natural speed. He could only separate his legs about a foot so it was more like shuffling than walking. Anyway, it felt good to get out of his cell.

     “Mind if I tag along?” Jamie smiled. He heard Sonni’s voice behind him.
     “What are you smiling for?” the guard asked, looking over at him.
     “Oh nothing,” he said back. “It feels good to be walking. Don’t you think it’s a beautiful day?”
     The guard snapped at him, “Don’t get smart with me, asshole, or I’ll return you to your cell and you can forget about commissary.” Jamie turned his face and was silent. He really wanted to go to commissary today or he’d have to wait a month.
     Sonni didn’t have to be quiet, though. She laughed at the exchange. “I’ve never had a chance to see the rest of this place so I thought I’d walk along.”
     Jamie never knew when she was going to pop in and he was sure glad to see her. She was looking good, but he realized that was the way she wanted him to see her in her dream. She was the one dreaming this time. She had a massive shot of chemo into the tumors in her liver not long ago and her hair fell out. You wouldn’t know that looking at her today. Her hair was long and silky-baby fine. It was also very strange seeing her walk beside him and the guards had no clue she was there. If they knew, they would be freaking out right now. It was hard to keep from laughing. He coughed instead.
     They walked down several hallways and through a few double sets of locked doors until they came to the commissary. Sonni was looking left and right taking it all in.
     “It’s an unfriendly place, isn’t it?” she asked. “The air is really stale.”
     She stood to the side when it was Jamie’s turn to go up to the counter that blocked the entrance to the room where they kept the commissary items. A woman was standing there and asked him for his ID. She needed to look him up and see if he had money on the books.
     “You have twenty dollars in your account,” she told him without looking him in the eye. Jamie told her what he needed.
     They walked back to his cell in silence and waited to talk until the guards left. If he appeared to be talking to himself they might think he was nuts. He didn’t want to give them any reason to write him up.
     “I’ve been worried about you,” Jamie told her quietly.
     “I know,” she said. She wanted to take his hand, but couldn’t. Living without the touch of another human being is hard. We were meant to be touched.
     “You’re so sick and there is nothing I can do,” he told her. “If something happens I won’t know.”
     “I’ll find a way to make sure you know, ” she assured him.
     “You’re all I have, the only one who shows me you care and I don’t want to lose you. I don’t think I can take that.” Jamie talked fast to get the words out. He didn’t want her to see him getting upset.
     “I know you are much sicker than you appear,” he looked down and almost whispered the words.
     “Isn’t that the beauty of dreams?” Sonni smiled as she talked.
     “We can go anywhere and be anyone we want.” She glanced over at the bed and saw the World Tribune laying there.
     “Have confidence,” she told him. “You’ve been reading, I see. What do you think?” She sat down on his bed and patted the thin mattress beside her for him to sit.
     “It sure makes me think about things I never thought about before.” Jamie nodded his head as he answered.
     “This is deeper thinking than anything I learned in my life before. It doesn’t say you have to believe in something you can’t see, but you should believe it anyway.”
     Jamie tried to find the words to explain what he meant. “Believe what you know to be there. See the actual proof of changes in your life.”
     “When you see what is happening in your life, something had to cause it to be there,” Sonni finished his thought and continued. “There are no accidents or bad luck. There is only effects of decisions you made, although it goes deeper than that because this isn’t our first rodeo show. If you focus on where you want to be in your life and seek the wisdom to change your life, you can.”

Sonni stopped there. “There is so much more to learn, and prison is giving you the time to learn it.”
     “It’s time for me to go now, Jamie, but I’ll be seeing you again soon.”
     That fast she was gone. She faded and disappeared like a genie in a bottle. Jamie sat there and went over everything in his head. It was quite a day.
     He still had hard years to get through, but everyone had hard years in one way or another. We all live some good years, too. Hopefully he’ll have lots of good years in his future.
     Even though Sonni is sick, she still has freedom. He doesn’t have freedom and without it, it isn’t much of a life. He can only pray things will get better for her, as he knows she prays for him. That’s all he can do for her. But Buddhists don’t close their eyes and pray, they open them and send their prayers into the universe and pray for protection.

Jamie picked up the World Tribune and began reading again where he left off.

 

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Letter to Jamie 2012 – Waiting For Liver Transplant

Sonni Quick April 2017

Many of you know I am doing a rewrite of Inside The Forbidden Outside, What a journey this has been since I decided Jamie’s story needed to be written.  It is not because his story is so unusual, but because there are so many people who have lived the same story.  There are different characters but the underlying theme is the same.  People need to better understand this story because too many still say the line, “If he did the crime he needs to do the time.” How do they know if he did the crime?  How do they know the underlying reason why so many live this story? 

If someone only listened to or read mainstream propaganda, which is getting worse, why would they believe anything to the contrary? They might also believe the white race is more deserving, privileged, more intelligent and less likely to do drugs or commit crimes, especially since there are so many more people of color in the prisons than white people. No part of that statement is true. Many white people can’t stand the thought they aren’t superior to other colors.  When a race has been trampled on as much as the black race and other minorities are catching up, there is an all out effort to keep white prison corporations as rich as possible off the backs of people they don’t like to continue this false illusion.

But wanting to write a book is not as easy as knowing how to spell and where to put a period.  It has taken me a couple years of writing and studying to get this far. Working with a story editor this time has given me a much better grip on what I’m doing. Anyone can self publish an inferior product and not be able to sell their book, but this is far too important to not do the best I can.

Since no one sees every post I put out, and if you are interested in what I’m doing, please subscribe to my newsletter below.  I put out an issue about once a month on different justice issues with an update on the book.  I don’t send you several emails a day like some do.  I hate that.  I also don’t have time to do that.

I am combing through 4-500 letters Jamie and I have exchanged to pull out the most important ones to use. These letters are like a diary that hold his growth into a man and our growth in communication. His effect on my life has been tremendous.  It has also been a two-way street. We would not have made it this far without each other.

********************

sick me
I’m sitting on pillows because of bedsores. I couldn’t walk by myself. My husband took me outside each day because it was Spring. Clogs were the only thing I could get my feet into

To explain where this letter is in time, I had moved from Key West, FL to Pa in August 2010 to get on the liver transplant list at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. My local Dr couldn’t help me anymore. My body had swelled with fluid and I looked like a beached whale.  They couldn’t tap me anymore to drain fluid because it was everywhere, even in my skin.  I already had two tumors in my liver and if I developed a third they would take me off the list and tell me to have a nice life. I won’t get into the details because it is fairly gross. When the liver became available the Drs told my husband, but not me, that I literally had days to live. I was bedridden and couldn’t type or hold a pen or feed myself,  but I had a laptop beside me and I typed letters with one finger.  I had no doubt I’d be okay.  I still had too much to do. Jamie’s letters were a major source of encouragement. The transplant took place July 2nd of this same year.

 

 

Date:   1/11/2012 12:12:59 PM
Sent To:        JAMES CUMMINGS

Dearest Jamie – life always goes up and down. Even for people who think they have everything so many of them aren’t happy, get depressed, and feel as though they have problems they will never get out of. But it is really all in the mind and how you view things will determine how you feel. I can’t imagine how hard it is for you. I can’t imagine having a family who cares so little and who will think only of themselves when you get out and how hard it was for THEM. Rise above. Develop an inner strength that will see you through the tough times. For Xmas I am going to get you a subscription to a weekly newspaper that I read. You will understand better what I am saying. It is all about having hope. You know I am not a Christian. I am a Buddhist. The philosophies are very different. We don’t pray to an outside source to change things for us. We learn to change from the inside out. Every day I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is time for you to try something different to help you figure out your life. You tried going to church.  You tried Islam. Nothing gave you the answers you were looking for. Now it is time to help you find them. I promise you this will change your life. Here is how to sound it out. If you counted to six evenly over and over you would have the rhythm. One- two -three- four- five- six. In music it is called 6/8 time.

1.Nam ( the a is pronounced like ahh) It doesn’t matter if it is pronounced right or not.
2.myo ( like a cat’s meow but with and o ) It is the attempt that matters.
3.ho Try to say it a hundred times. When you get comfortable
4.ren- ( like rent ) with it, direct your mind to pray for what you need.
5.ge ( like gay ) Jamie, I would not have been doing this for 24 years for no
6.kyo (like myo ) reason. The more you chant, the better. I have often chanted for 3 or more hours at a time. You will feel better and your head will feel better. People will notice the change.

You are such a worthwhile person. Some days it is hard. There is good and evil. Things will happen to try and make you stop. Don’t let anyone stop you. It isn’t easy doing this through the mail, but when you start getting the World Tribune and read and learn, it will make more and more sense. This is the best present I can give you.

I’m doing a little better every day. The pain is decreasing and the excess fluid is going down from the new medication. Mike said I look like a drill sargent since I don’t have much hair except for a little buzz on the top! It used to be down to my waist. Oh well . . . it grows back. I don’t want anymore chemo that is for sure. It was that procedure that I think gave me the infection I had. But at least they caught before I got any sicker. I do have good drs. Thank goodness I have medicaid. I can’t imagine what 3 days at Hershey Med costs. Probably more than I make, or used to make in a year. So, next stop – transplant here I come!!

Little Jamie will never hate you. He doesn’t really understand, but children are very forgiving. He only wants his daddy. I was lucky for Xmas because I still had quite a few toys and books left from closing the store. I knew Megan had no money so I wanted to make sure everyone had 3 or 4 presents under the tree – including Megan. I gave Jamie a 3-D puzzle of a pirate ship that Alex helped him with. I think that was the best thing for him. It wasn’t just a toy to play with and then forget about. He could be proud that he helped make it. I had puzzles for 3 yr olds that was good for Cozmo. I got clothing for Alex and Alyssa – important things in school. Can you believe that Alex will be 15 on March 2?? He has grown to be a good kid. Meg has always been a strict disciplinarian and it is paying off – even if her daughter hates her at least every other day!

Megan has not forgotten you even though it often feels that way. She gets so quiet when I talk about you. Afraid to think too far into the future.

I won’t let you give up, Jamie, that’s the way I am. You can tell me when you feel bad. I would carry your burden if I could. Lots of love, Mom

p.s. Sounds like you had a great xmas meal. It makes the little things so appreciated. I wish you could get care boxes.
Also – I am going to pay off your med fee. It doesn’t give you any money yet, but toward the end of the month I’ll put a little on your account so you can get some things you need.

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Can Anybody Hear Me?

I  originally posted this on my other blog, Watch and Whirl. It is about much more than you can see here.  Some people have to live in an unwelcoming society. That behavior often brings unintended consequences.  Please – follow the link and then pass it on)

CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?   by Sonni Quick   copyright 2016 You can add comments about the music under the wave form. You can see the comment I left to show you where. Written in support of all trans pe…

Source: Can Anybody Hear Me?

Can Someone Be Happy on Death Row?

Mando-August-4-2013-001-2

I have written posts and pages about a man who lives on Death Row. I use the term “lives” because he has a life. It might not be the life he wants, or one you and I could tolerate, but it is the life he has and he is trying to make it the best life he can.  He has spent years studying to understand life to a greater extent than most people do. He had to go back to the earliest part of his life to understand and learn to appreciate it.

Most people float through their lives from day to day without much thought about why we are the way we are, or why we ended up with the life we have.  We often don’t take responsibility for making the causes we have, to end up where we are. I began writing to him a couple years ago because he intrigued me. I had gone to a pen pal site for inmates, not looking for someone to write to, because I was writing to Jamie, but because I thought this site might a place to put his info and acquire a pen pal or two for him.

Then I saw this post about an inmate named Armando Macias who was on death row, and he was a Buddhist. Since I am a Buddhist as well, I found that intriguing.  I doubted he was a Buddhist before he was sentenced to death row, and how does someone find that practice inside? There aren’t Buddhist monks in prison like there are chaplins. What has his study and practice changed his life to enable him to have quality in his life while living in a tiny bathroom sized cement box. We have had wonderful letters discussing the teachings of Buddhism while getting to know each other.

A member of my family, not understanding, even asked why why I would even want to have him for a friend?  Why would I even want to write to him/  He murdered someone!  He didn’t deserve to be a friend of mine. He no longer qualified to be a human being.  He was going to hell, I was told. Even though he understood what he did was wrong he didn’t deserve to be treated with kindness ever again for the rest of his life.  Because none of us are perfect and do things that are wrong does that mean we should be shunned?

I’m writing about him today because something a little strange happened two days ago. Most of my posts, no matter when they were written still get views. I think that is fairly normal on blogs that aren’t time sensitive, like news. He sent me something to me near the end of 2014 he had written. I broke it down into The parts and it can be found at the top of the site where all the pages are. It is called The Inhumane Society

I still get views every month on the entire series of three posts.  I was quite shocked the first time i read it because it was quite degrading. So far it has been read over 500 times.  That’s not bad because I was a fairly new blogger when I posted it. It showed me it was something people were interested in finding it out more about. People are realizing they have been lied to a great many things and they are tired of being lied to.  We need to insist even stronger we aren’t going to take it anymore. The days of being manipulated are coming to a fast close.

The other day, in the space of two hours, 62 people read this post. Read it yourself.  What do you think?  These were unique viewers.  My blog won’t register a viewer as “unique” if a person logs into the same post within 24 hours. What was bringing here? It wasn’t a new post, I’ve had a few take off and have had 800 to 5000 views over a couple weeks, but not when it had already been out for 1 1/2 years. Was it the subject and was was happening now to get a lot of traffic?  Why was it being quickly shared?  Mind you I’m not complaining.  Anyone who writes wants to have their words reads.

DEATH ROW AND THE DEATH PENALTY

There have been more articles written about the death row and the death penalty than there ever has been.  People want it changed and it has gone back and forth over the years.  The fact that it has been proven that we murdered innocent people and it is too late to give them their lives back.  to have that on your conscious is hard., I would think. Many people aren’t guilty and are used to falsely fill the prisons for the sake of the profit of the prisons.

Yes, there are some really bad people inside, but they are the minority, not the majority, and the length of sentences are often beyond reason. If they aren’t as bad as they have been out to be, simply to fill “for profit” prisons, that means the people in this country were taught to have no moral compass..

This brings me to the second problem I realized. America wants to insist this is a Christian Nation. If this were true – if this country was founded on Christianity, what the hell happened? Why does this piece of dirt that holds 5% of the world’s population have 25% of all the prisoners in the world? Do you see what I’m getting at? Either there is something ineffective about the teachings or there aren’t as many people really and truly “practicing” the teachings, living their lives as if the teachings make a difference. There is so much hate and so many hate crimes, and people think they have a right to do them. People either have no idea what the term”you reap what you sow” means, or they think it doesn’t apply to them.

I recently read a article on a Christian website. The preacher was teaching a lesson. He said to his followers, “You don’t have to worry about the phrase, you reap what you sow. Jesus died for your sins.” What??? It doesn’t matter what you do or who you hurt. You are saved and going to heaven.. I’m sorry, it doesn’t work like that.  You get back the effect of every bad -and good – thing you do. If you aren’t happy, it is for a reason. It also applies if you are happy. You have no one else but yourself that is responsible for your life. Even if you were taught differently, it doesn’t make it so.

This country should be overstuffed with happy Christians. Where are they? They are all out there proudly toting their guns In case their neighbor tries to shoot up the grocery store while they are in it.  A Christian country wanting to terrorize lgbt people because they say Good doesn’t like it. They terrorize Muslims because they say every single one of them wants to kill you in your sleep. And damn those Mexicans raping and killing our women. Then they teach this to a new generation of kids? Is this our Christian nation? It’s shameful.

Armando Macias studied all religions to find the truth about his life.  He did do something bad. But through this bad thing, with the teachings of Buddhism, which is doubtful you know anything about, he learned what it meant to truly be a human being. He is more free in that prison than most Americans are carrying they guns around because that is their god given freedom to protect themselves – from what?

NICHIREN BUDDHISM

It is Nichiren Buddhism I teach Jamie, so he will truly learn his value as human being. Praising an entity does not replace the work we need to do on ourselves that make us better people. We can’t say “Praise the Lord”, and then do as we damn well please and think we won’t have to pay the price for our actions.

This is my opinion. Please understand i am not lumping all Christians into this category.  You can believe what you want. Each of us to come to terms with our own life.  You can be angry or you can think about it. I’m not saying you should stop being a Christian. But understand why you are.  Was it told to you ha

I think it is hard to not try to analyze it, but that doesn’t change anything. So how does one change something that causes unhappiness? Let’s take a hard situation, since I mostly write about the prison system. Today I wore about juvenile detention and the artwork is from a man on death row. He committed a contract killing. Not his first offense. Read what he wrote about what happened the first time he was released. He wanted a better life. His karma was too strong. What is karma? The effect of causes made. If you want to know what causes you made in the past look at your life today. How do you want you future to be? Make the right causes. Otherwise life just slaps you around and if you really think life isn’t being fair it is easy to play victim and say it is not your fault – it was done to you by something outside your control. At that point many people would pray to God to fix it and when that doesn’t work they’d say it was part of God’s plan for them to suffer. So nothing changes and no responsibility is taken. Amen. Praise the lord!

How does someone change the fact they are on death row? or Ad Seg like Jamie? Physically, right now it won’t change. What changes is attitude and life Condition. You could call it moods. depending on your mood, when something happens you will react differently. If you are angry and a guard treated you badly, you’ll get pissed which will start a chain of events that could end up with you getting very hurt. If you have a higher life condition you might blow it off and the guard would  just walk away. You could have a higher life condition and instead, genuinely smile him.  After all, he has to work in this 100 degree weather with more clothes on than you and tempers are flaring. Now that he isn’t angry and you weren’t condescending to him maybe you’ll be the first one he takes to the shower and you thank him. Different causes. Different effects. This is all of life. This is how karma is made.

Everything you think, say or do creates karma. Even in a prison cell he can be happy. There are many kinds of prison cells. To escape unhappiness you have to understand the causes of your life. When you are in rhythm with the universe you will bring to you what you need, and when you try to change, your life will throw up obstacles to keep you down. Resistance to change. This is a life long battle. How do you get in rhythm? By chanting “nam myoho renge kyo” The law the cause and effect through sound and vibration.

Some people mediate, but that is too passive. You physically have to do something. Yes, you can think about change but it isn’t the same. There are so many things I want to do. None of it will happen unless I make the cause for it to happen. We understand that on a basic level. Can you even imagine what you could do if you took control of how you’re life actually went? So whether it is changing violence, or anger or jealousy or lack of confidence, or a hateful coworker, or not wanting to be alone, anything – if you have complete confidence your mind will figure out a way. But we are human and it is always 2 steps forward and one step back That is life.There is nothing supernatural about it. No God up there who has the ability to love no matter how much people want it to be so. Common sense. This, was the intro to Nichiren Buddhism 101. You don’t have to believe it, but millions of other Nichiren Buddhists in this country to do, which is why this is not a Christian nation.  We have to have laws for all people not just a select person.  There is no fat happy Buddha, either, BTW.  We don’t worship the man, we try to live what he taught.

This was not meant to insult anyone and their faith, only to bring to the surface the people that don’t practice their faith as it was meant to be, but instead use it to judge others they think should practice what they believe in, and use hate and violence to push their agenda – no matter what faith they have.

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My Name Is Jamie

( Sonni’s note: This is the first thing I posted on this blog in 2014 and it has been read about 1000 times. I decided to post it again because there are so many new people who come to this blog. it is hard to get a sense of who he is or why I do this so I wanted newer readers to have the opportunity to know I write for him – why it matters so much. I am going to repost some early posts. You’ll know by the dates. I hope you go on to read the chapters of the book I am now writing, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. You can sign up to be on the mailing list at the bottom of this post. The success of this writing, and the fact that he wants to go in the direction of helping kids avoid making the same mistakes, and wanting to help others have a better life, using this book will be an important tool. You can help it be a success by sharing it with other people. I hope to be done writing it in the next 6 months, and the process of publishing will take at at least a year longer than that, if you are familiar with publishing. I think he is a very special man with a lot to give back to society. help me help him. It is extremely hard to have a successful life when inmates reintegrate into society after a long time because so many things have changed. What he has learned about his life while helping me to write this book, because he has had to look honestly at himself, is helping him to keep his determination strong to change.

There are many piano pieces throughout this blog. There is a reason for that. My life and Jamie’s life are intertwined. He has helped me survive and I have helped him. Everything happens for a reason. The people we meet are not by accident. He gave me the reason to start writing music again.

My Name Is Jamie – by Sonni Quick copyright 2014

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My music pieces are improvisations. There are many throughout this blog. This piece of music is an early recording, before I had the means to record the way I do now. I wrote this after my liver transplant, when I was able to sit again at my piano. My playing changed. I used to write songs with lyrics, and do copy music of other artists. I lost the ability to sing, my vocal cords are shot, so the meaning needs to be expressed solely through my playing. I can’t explain this right, but when I lived through the transplant, my music changed. I no longer wanted to sound like someone else. My dream as a child was to play the most beautiful music in the world, but I didn’t know how to play what I could hear inside. Now, it may not be the most beautiful in the world, but to me it expresses what I feel inside. I crawl inside my piano and play it from the inside out. I kn0w. I sound a bit nutty, but it is the only way to describe it. Every time I sit down to play I have no idea what I’m going to do. I don’t listen to it while I play. I just play. I don’t listen to them until a few days has passed so I can listen to them as a stranger would hear them. I don’t remember them. It’s an odd experience. I can’t play them again unless I went back and charted them, which I may do someday. I hit an occasional wrong note. Oh well. My fingers play what they want to express. I play when I am feeling emotional. This piece is the first piece I played this way. I just let my fingers play what they wanted. This is the emotion I was feeling after reading one of Jamie’s letters. The emotion of Jamie’s loss. During the short time he was able to call me last year and I played this for him over the phone. It will be a long time before he can hear the other piano pieces i recorded for him. Sometimes I record a piece and give it as a gift. On the list below you will see one called Graduation Day. Currently it is my newest piece and I just sent it to my niece. I recorded it during her graduation. I want to off some of this music with the book when it is published. )

I sit here in my prison cell, as I do every day, trying unsuccessfully not think too much. How can I pass this day quickly? How many hours can I sleep? How can I pretend that I am somewhere other than this place, trying to wish my life away? It’s sad. What a waste of my life. How did I let this happen to me? This isn’t where I was supposed to be. I want to be with my family. With the woman I love, and with my son and her other children. I think of them like they are my own. I try to not think about that too much anymore. I’ve lost so much I will never be able to get back.

From one human being to another, Jamie – I love you. Not a romantic love, but the love for you as a human being. You inspire me with the strength you have shown in making it through these things that have been done to you in the false name of Justice.)

I can never get back the time. They are all growing up without me. I’ve let everyone down. I know I’m not a bad person. I try to do the right thing, but sometimes, in the past, I did things on impulse. I never thought about what it would do to my life. I never thought I would end up here. Unless you’ve been here you have no way of understanding. This is a nightmare I can’t wake up from.

I often think I won’t make it. I feel like I want to explode inside. I tried to kill myself more than once, but I didn’t succeed. Sometimes I feel like I am under my cell, under the floor, and everything is on top of me. I feel like will never get out of here. I don’t care about eating most of the time. I’ve gone on hunger strikes. But mom, the woman I call mom, always talks me out of it by telling me that my life matters even if I don’t believe it does. You wouldn’t want to eat if you had to eat the food in here. Sometimes all they feed us is peanut butter.

Sometimes I don’t take my medications for epilepsy. The medical care in here is another story. One time I had a seizure and I woke up on the floor with my hands and feet in cuffs. There was no concern for me. They were afraid that they were going to get hurt. Amazing. Anywhere else a person would be taken to the hospital, but not here. Another time I fell off my bunk and broke my front teeth. I have had so many seizures and many times the guards let me lay here because they don’t want to do the paperwork. They do give me my seizure medication, most of the time, but I’m not too sure what it is. I’ve heard that drug companies try out new meds on us with the government’s permission – we have a debt to pay society, they say. But how many seizures can one person have and not have their brain all scrambled? People on the outside don’t treat their dogs the way they treat us in here. What does it matter? I don’t think it matters to my family, either. No one ever writes and asks me how I’m doing. I’ve given up waiting.

I know, I’m feeling sorry for myself. They didn’t put me here. I did. I was wrong to think they would care. Eight years in here. It tears my head up thinking about where I could be. Where would I be right now? I’d like to think I would have done something good with my life. Would Megan and I be together? Would I have been able to take care of my family? Would something else have happened to me because it was my karma to be in here? Eight years is very long time. I have nine more to go, unless they let me out of here someday. I’m not hopeful. My family doesn’t pay me any attention because they say they feel too much pain knowing I’m here, or they say they didn’t make me screw up, so they ignore me instead. It makes it easier for them. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s kinda screwed up, isn’t it?

There isn’t much I can do in here except think. I lay here hour after hour just thinking about things. Some of my memories are worn out by now. I try not to think about the memories that bring me down, but they seem to sneak in anyway. I have so many regrets. I try to replace those thoughts with good ones about the future. Sonni, who I call mom, tells me that the mind is very powerful and I can shape the future the way I want it to be. I need to think of the life I want to have when I get out of here. Focus on what CAN be, not what was in the past. The future hasn’t happened yet so i can shape that the way I want it to be. It’s hard not to get depressed. I have to work at that. Some day this will be over. i can do it.

Sonni, Megan's mom
Sonni, Megan’s mom

Sonni might not be my mother, but she is the one who has been here for me. She treats me like I am her son. She keeps my head on straight when I’m really feeling bad. Over the years she has been my lifeline. She’s the one person I know I can count on. She helps me buy the things I need at the commissary and sends me books and magazines. But most of all she writes to me and I am so grateful for that. She’s done so much for me when she didn’t have to. I don’t know why she wanted to help me, but I’m glad she did. She’s my son’s grandmother, so she will always be a part of my family. I know I am important to her. But it’s a shame when you have a large family like I do. They live close enough to visit, but they don’t. I don’t even get a birthday card. It’s like I don’t exist anymore. Sometimes I am so hurt and angry. that is the hardest thing I have to overcome – my anger. I used to think it was my fault. Maybe it was because I gave my mom a hard time when I was growing up. Maybe she is just too busy working two jobs and she used to take care of my nieces when their mom was in jail. So maybe my family just doesn’t have any time for me.

I can’t say that my mother never visited me. She and Megan drove across the whole state of Texas when Jamie was little more than a baby. It was the only time I saw my son for 6 years until last October.

jamie-meg

photo43

Megan brought all the kids to see me. It was great. I felt, for a little while that I had my family around me. It gave me good memories to think about over and over. I think I almost wore them out! For a long time I was moved around Texas and the first two were really far away. I’ve been in 6 prisons so far. But even when I moved closer it didn’t make much difference. My mother did come some months back. I was really surprised. She brought my nieces with her. She told me that she would be back every week. That made me feel really good, but she didn’t come back again for a long time. Megan brought my son Jamie Jr to see me in 2013 after much begging. She also brought the other kids. That made me so happy. They were so small the last time I saw them. They grew up.

IMG330 Antonio Alexander

i0000010 Alyssa

photo-29 The next month, November, Megan came back and brought Sonni, who from now on I’ll just call mom. That’s what we use in our letters. She lives in Pa. After all of the letters we’ve written, we finally got a chance to see each other eye to eye. She put her hand flat against the glass and I put my hand up to hers. I could feel the caring through the glass. I haven’t seen them since. Mom hasn’t been back to Tx yet. Soon I hope. A man named Melvin, who is a member of the SGI, the Nichiren Buddhist organization that sends me the reading materials about life that I am studying, has visited with me for awhile coming every couple months. It is teaching me how to change the things inside me that cause me unhappiness.

I met mom before Thanksgiving before I got busted. I was only 22 then. I’m 31 now. She took my picture when I walked into her room at the hotel. I was embarrassed and couldn’t look up into the camera.photo-44The next morning we all went out for breakfast. I wish I could turn back the clock and do things differently. Megan had just found out she was pregnant, but we didn’t tell anybody yet. It was only a month later that I got arrested. I was surprised when I got that first letter from her. I am so glad she took the time to write to me, and over time we got close. A lot of dudes in here don’t have anyone to write to.

I wish I could see my son more, but I doubt it’s going to happen. Megan’s life is too full of drama. It keeps her from being able to make the drive. It is a full day of driving so I guess it isn’t easy. I’ve given up expecting more. What I don’t understand is when they say things like, “Just because I don’t write you doesn’t mean I don’t love you” or ” I don’t write to you because it hurts me too much.” Hurts them?? They make it sound as though they are the ones being punished. It hurts me so I’ll hurt you more?? And someday, when I get out of here, am I supposed to open my arms and be glad to see everybody? When someone you love doesn’t write back to you, you make up all kinds of things in your head. It’s hard for me to believe they care.

If I could go back and do that night again, I wonder where I would be? If I had thought about that the night I chose to follow my friends maybe i would have had better common sense? I went out with my cousin and some friends. I was in Megan’s car. She tried to get me to stay home that night. We were smokin’ some weed. We just went out to party. This wasn’t supposed to happen.One guy made a joke about robbing this place. I think in a way I was shocked, but at the same time I didn’t try to stop him. I didn’t leave because friends don’t leave friends behind. I played a part as well by helping him. I was driving. He had a gun in his backpack. It was all so stupid.

You know the court appoints a lawyer for people who don’t have the money to hire an attorney. They aren’t on your side. This lawyer gets paid about $200, at $75 an hour, to help whoever needs help. But they don’t really care about helping you. They work for the DA so whatever deal the DA wants, that’s what they tell you to do. The first deal he came to me with was 45 years! No one got hurt. Yes, it was wrong. I accept responsibility for that. But a white guy could murder someone and not get 45 years. But when you can’t afford a lawyer and you’re black and live in Texas, you’re screwed. So I told them no deal and they set another court date. Then they enhanced my case to make it 15-99 years. Fifteen minimum until I probably die. This was to make me take the deal. They also don’t want to take the time and money to go to court. It’s called, clearing the docket. So then this lawyer said they would offer 17 years and I should take it. He never discussed the case with me. He didn’t know who I was. He didn’t care. He wasn’t there to help me. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to who would help me. This was a first offense. I did go to juvy on a nine month sentence when I was in tenth grade, but it wasn’t because of a crime. The school to prison pipeline is very real. That’s another story.

That was more than 8 years ago. I think I have a long way to go. They don’t like to let people out of here. They keep knocking us down so we never make the level to get out. Guards file false charges. One accused me of blowing her a kiss. If you saw her you would know that would have never happened. She was big and fat and ugly. Besides, who would be that stupid. But she wrote me up for it and got me in trouble.
Prison recreation cages
Most of the time I spent in ad seg (administrative segregation), which is solitary with another name, and I can’t even leave my cell for meals. They let me out of my cell for an hour to go outside by myself to the cages if the weather is okay. A few times a week I go to the showers. They put my food through a slot in the door. Ad seg is also called G5. Recently I made it to G4 and I could go to chow. But a guy jumped me there. A guard saw it and said it wasn’t my fault but they still took my G4 away and put me back in G5. Now I have to wait another 6 months to a year to get out again. It has happened every time. Last time it took me more than two years to get back up to G4. When I do work my way up it is never for long. They always find a reason to send me back. because of that, in all these years they have never been able to make even one phone call. I would have to be G2 for that to happen. My son was born after this happened but I can never call him, never wish him happy birthday or tell him I love him. That sucks. It also means I can’t go to school. Without a GED I can’t even work at a fast food place. I couldn’t live on that anyway. This is why inmates can’t make it when they get out and why prison doors revolve. Let one person out while it brings another back in.

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Allred Unit- Prison #8

Early Jan 2016

Hello mom, I’m sorry it to so long for me to write. Things have really been crazy the last few weeks. I have through hell and back. But that’s in the past. I’m not in the Wynne Unit no more. I’m now in N. Texas.

(  Sonni’s note: This is the 8th prison Jamie has been in. IF you would like to write to him here is his new address: James Cummings #1368189  12-Fpod-84, Allred Unit, 2101 FM 369 North, Iowa Park, Tx 76367 for those who have written and had birthday cards returned because he was transferred. If they were delivered, they haven’t sent his property to him yet so he doesn’t have any addresses, stamps, paper or ID to get any at the commissary. Hopefully he’ll get it, but last time the guards took things. It’s normal to be moved all over the state. There are more than 110 prisons just in Texas. Going to N Texas is better than going south. Texas is hot in the summer all over. But the south is hotter)

lockdown,voice from insideI am in ad seg, but believe it or not it’s okay as of right now. I am so glad to be away from Wynne Unit. It took two days to get here and we went through a little snow storm.

(Sonni’s note: Jamie told me a long time ago that he’d never seen snow. He’s never been out of Texas. So he must have enjoyed seeing snow. I just sent him a letter through jpay.com and sent a picture of the snow storm we just had on the east coast. 33″ and add 2 more feet of drifts. I hate cold weather. I prefer the tropics so I am typing right now wrapped up in three blankets! I hibernate in the winter.)

So far I’m okay. I’m still having chests pains here and there but I’ll be seeing a Dr here soon. They’ll start taking my medical fee out of any money you send until it’s paid. If you hadn’t been paying it all these years and helping me I wouldn’t have anything. I hope the send me all the books you had just sent.

( I buy them by the foot. A variety of all kinds of used books that measure three feet when stacked. I already bought another 3 feet. If he gets the last shipment h, too, he’ll be set for a couple months! In his property is also a radio. I found a neat article about how a monk sets his day. I jokingly told him he is like a monk who also lives in a cell. It helps to have a routine and stick to it spending so much time doing each thing and keeping his mind occupied in a positive way.

Source: Timo Waltari on Flickr
photo source: wikipedia commons (also from previous article)))

If you haven’t yet, read the post before this one about solitary confinement in the UK.  It’s hard to read what this kind of solitary does to the mind. It causes depression and mental illness. Suicide in prison is high. Depression and paranoia. Human beings are not meant to never be touched or talked to. Most people can’t handle it. Jamie is no stranger to solitary confinement or ad seg. They are both 23 hr a day lock down. Every three months they lock you down further to toss cells. Commissary is suspended even though he can only go once a month anyway and food rations are cut. Being able to stock up on food from the commissary is important.

Jamie studies Nichiren Buddhism. I started teaching him about 6-7 years ago. It’s not an easy practice to do every day without support. Compare it to taking out a gym membership. After going for awhile most people gradually stop going and make excuses why they can’t exercise that day, but they’ll go tomorrow and when they don’t see results they quit.  Buddhism produces actual results. It isn’t like Christianity where you go to church once a week, ask forgiveness and all is okay and you treat the world around you the same. We look at life and death in a different way and don’t think it was created by a god. It is different than a religion where a god is at the center. Since there is no god in Buddhism to worship, we don’t pray to an entity outside of us to change things in our life. We pray for the wisdom to know what to do to be able to change the part pf your nature that ends up causing you unhappiness. When you are able to change something on the inside, it affects your environment on the outside. 

We cause our own problems and over time we see the effects in our life around us. We can’t expect our life to change without doing the work. It’s like praying to change something and then holding out our hand expecting the benefit of cookies. We have to learn how to make better causes so we can be happy. In the last year, when Jamie was knocked down from G2 status that allowed him phone calls and had also allowed him to have a job – cleaning the showers – that he had worked hard to reach, because of the vindictiveness of a guard, it was a major let down for him and slowly he allowed his anger to have more control over his actions than common sense. He’s human. We’re all human, and we do or say things we later regret. But in prison you also have to deal with the rule that guards are always right and inmates are always wrong and there is nothing you can do about it. This has happened a number of time over the years where he had privileges taken away because of someone else has power over him.

But still, it is the result of cause that were made that put him in this situation to begin with, and only by changing how he deals with it can he change it. Wanting to change it doesn’t work by itself. If it were that easy to change, people would be doing it all the time. But they don’t and many fall back on, “That’s just the way I am.”

This is why we practice Nichiren Buddhism – not Tibetan or Zen or any other because they are ass different as Pentecostals and Catholics.If your faith only tells you what you should to be happy, but doesn’t tell you how to do it, then you have only half a teaching. Praising a god or any religion is not how you change the problems in your life. I’ve gone into this explanation because it’s a very important part of how he will be able to have the life he wants.  It’s up to him and asking an entity in the universe to fix his problems won’t work.  Ask any inmate in solitary confinement how that method is working for him.  If that worked we wouldn’t have the prison system we have because I’m sure there are a lot of inmates who are trying that method.  I don’t mean to disrespect anyone’s choice of faith.  I hadn’t intended this to be a post on faith, but it is a big part off how I keep his head above water.  I only know what works for me now and what hasn’t worked in the past. If anyone would like to know what this is go to http://sgi-usa.org.

So you had the chance to talk with the Warden when you called about my medications. The warden is just as bad as the guards. He’s the type of fool who tries to bone every female officer who works for him. When he can’t have his way he writes them up. This whole place is corrupt. I’ve had women who work here offer me sex. I would never have intercourse with them even if I wanted to. I’d be too scared because of HIV. A lot of these women have sex with these dudes and a lot of these dudes have sex with other dudes. So I have safe sex, with myself.

This seg is nothing like the last one. Officers here are respectful. I haven’t met them all yet but I’m going to do my best to be polite.

Do you think you can get Megan to bring little Jamie to see? If you are still planning on coming to Texas this spring I can’t wait to see you! I have to go for now. I only have one piece of paper and a stamp that I borrowed. I’ll write again as soon as I can. Please call Jamie. And tell him I love him.

Love you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

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Guards Are Always Right. Inmates Are Always Wrong

black hands on cell door, prison guard brutality
source credit: pittsburgurbanmedia.com

Today I started reading through old letters I sent Jamie. This one is six months old and it was written at the time after he had just lost his new privileges of being able to make phone calls and have contact visits – for three weeks. It was devastating to be sent back to lock up again after it took him another two years to reach a level where it was allowed. It happened because of lies by guards and no one would listen to you. The guards are always right and the inmates are always wrong – every time. If a guard does not back up whatever another guard says he, himself, will be retaliated against. When that happens it is hard to keep your anger from making you lash out.

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Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is like the roar of a lion, there what illness can be an obstacle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mention daimoku which is a Nichiren Buddhist chant – Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.  Like meditation it allows you to have better control of your mind, your thoughts. Practicing Buddhism has been very good for Jamie.  It has been part of my life for a very long time.  I started teaching Jamie Buddhist concepts and how to apply them at least 6 years ago.  Being in prison is more difficult than you can imagine, knowing the years you lose, you will never get back, and the abuse you will have to take will be humiliating, because it is wrong and there is nothing you can do about it.

Chanting, with the deep breathing you have to do, lowers your stress level.  High stress also makes his epileptic seizures  more frequent. This allows the person inside to shine. We have to understand the right thing to do, instead of responding emotionally.  But chanting doesn’t mean you will always do the right thing.  We are human.  We learn from our mistakes. Changing our habits and our reactions is a life long battle with ourselves. But I believe – asking someone or something outside ourselves to fix our problems that cause us unhappiness.  Change must come from within.  Chanting gives you time to think about your life and take responsibility for your actions.  It is about gaining the wisdom to make the right decisions to change your life – to see things in a different perspective.

Living in a prison is about as close to the concept as hell as you can get. Buddhism does not look at hell as a place you go to when you die, but rather a life condition you live in here on earth. What better describes that life condition than a maximum security prison.

This letter was sent using jpay.com, a system set up for most state prisons, not federal. I can type an email letter, or send money through them.  To send a letter costs one “stamp” per page.  To send a picture is one stamp.  Two pictures is two stamps.  The advantage is they get it faster, and my typing is easier to read than my handwriting!  I do write, though, because I know it is a more personal connection.

 
Date: 5/11/2015  5:18:10 PM
Sent To: JAMES CUMMINGS
Attachments:

Hello son,

Just a quick letter today. I wanted you to know that I did talk to Ms Johnson in classification. She said you had to go to the UCC (prison court) on May 12 for a case. She said she didn’t have anymore information. She said after that you would be released, but she didn’t say released to where. Jamie, you can’t fight them. I know this is so hard. You worked so hard and waited so long for your privileges but they always find a way to knock you down even if they have to lie to do it. I know they didn’t do you right. You need to keep the bigger picture in mind and put all the rest of the garbage out where it belongs – in the trash. I know it’s hard.

You probably won’t get this letter in time – but chant daimoku (Nichiren Buddhism) before you go to court.  Center your mind. Stay calm. You have grown so much and learned so much, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes sometimes. The harder we try to change, life throws curve balls at us to keep us down. But if you remember there is something to learn from everything, you will be okay. This will  be over one day. It will be behind you and you will have a chance to live again. Have faith in that. You will have a life and it will be a life you will be proud of. All of this  you are going through is making you the person you are. A person with compassion. A person who will always know what it is like when the chips are down. You are learning things through all of this. I will be chanting for you tomorrow to be strong. Have no doubt, Jamie. Keep your dreams in the front of your head.

You might find this a bit funny. You REALLY upset Bill (my egotistic brother-in-law who uses his knowledge of the Bible as a way to feel important, but doesn’t apply any teachings inside the covers to his own life) with that plastic Christian remark you called him. If the shoe fits, wear it. My sister and family had a field day ripping you and me to shreds because of how much he “helped” you, and you had the nerve to expect him to follow through with the things he said he could do for you,.  I should have known better. You bruised his inflated ego. If it weren’t true it wouldn’t have bothered him so much. He knows what he did – he just didn’t want anyone else to find out about it. He said were ungrateful. It must have made him feel good to rip apart our relationship. Well, I hope he enjoyed himself. After all he is such a sincere Christian. You are a much better man than he is. The law of cause and effect applies to him as well. Hearing those words, “Cause and effect” makes him go berserk with rage.  But isn’t it the same as, “You reap what you sow”?

reap what you sow

My mom wants to have a happy family. It ain’t gonna happen any time soon. I wouldn’t go to any family affairs if they invited me, which I doubt they will – because I don’t like to be around plastic people either. I have other people in my life who know who I am and care about me. After almost 5 years of trying to have a family since I moved here – I give up. I just can’t live life they way they do. I can’t pretend.  But remember – the best revenge against people like that is to have a good, happy life. Live with the principles you know to be true. Treat people the way you want to be treated.

On that note – write me asap and let me know what’s up. What a mess this all is. I love you. Never forget that.

Your mom

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Jamie Cummings – Wynne Unit – Huntsville, Tx

Jamie Cummings
Jamie and his son July 7, 2013

This is Jamie and my grandson Jamie. This photo is two years old now, the last time I visited. Since this blog is for him, the picture used to be near the top. I realized it is on the bottom now in a slideshow. So I thought I’d give him a dedicated post so anyone new to the blog can see who I’m writing about.

He used to have some meat on his bones but you can see what prison food does to you. I hope I’m making a difference in his life so when he does get out he has the confidence to build a life for himself and his son. The only legacy we can ever leave behind is the effect we have on other people.

“We have to make ourselves heard. We have to speak out for what we believe in. When we, the people, boldly state our true convictions – never losing our optimism or sense of humor – the times will change. When it comes to speaking out for justice, there isn’t any need for restraint On the contrary, to be reserved or hesitant under such circumstances is wrong.”

Daily Guidance
SGI President – Daisaku Ikeda
Nichiren Buddhism

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What Has Happened Now? The Prison Cut Off My Emails.

I’m concerned. Two nights ago I started writing an email to Jamie. I have used http://Jpay.com to write to him for about 7 years. I can send him emails, money and pictures, which is easier than handwriting mail, and getting money orders, although I do send him other things – articles and cards. But when I logged into Jpay yesterday morning, the option to send mail had disappeared. I could only send money. That had never happened before in all the years I’ve been writing.

I called Jpay. The rep I talked to had not heard of this happening, either, and called her supervisor. She told me the prison must have stopped it as a way of disciplining him. To me that says they are out of things to take away from him. There isn’t much more they can take away from you when you are in ad seg. So his books must be gone as well as all belongings, probably his mattress as well. His little fan? In this godawful heat. His food -still on food loaf, which I think they make from garbage. They feed it to them three times a day.

food loaf

So what the hell happened that they would resort to stopping my emails. They would know I am the only one writing to him. Will a snail mail letter get through? Is it also directed at me for some reason because they didn’t like what they read?  I’m grasping at straws.  I just double checked again and it’s still blocked.  My concern is mostly for Jamie because most likely it is a punishment for something.

Melvin, the man in Texas who goes to the prison to visit with him every 4 to 6 weeks was recently there.  He said he was in good spirits.  The cut on his foot was still hurting but it was starting to heal.  They chanted together for awhile.  Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.  Jamie has been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for several years, a practice that is difficult to do on your own.  It’s easy to begin, like deciding to go to the gym, but it is hard to maintain with encouragement, because since it is a practice it is something you do every day.  He has been learning that we are the cause for own problems.  We make the causes.  We get the effects.  Learning how to respond to life a different way takes more than just thinking about it.  If you have an issue with anger there are things that are going to press your buttons and you are going to respond the same way no matter how many times you tell yourself not to.  Actually changing something inside yourself that reflects in your environment takes time.  You make baby steps.  The first step is understanding how you could have reacted in a different way.  We chant – deeply – to change that part of ourselves that causes us the most grief.  It is a life long process.  Most people understand there are benefits to meditation and chanting has the same benefits of that.  Deep breathing calms you and enables you to think.  Chanting is deeper that that.

The universe runs on a rhythm.  We see it easily in the tides.  All life is a cycle.  Birth, aging, sickness and death.  All of nature and all living beings. When you are able to join with that rhythm it brings into your life those things that help you and also those things you need to learn so you can change the things that cause you unhappiness.  When you try to change the things that hold you down the only way to do that is to confront the very things that cause you unhappiness. We never get rid of problems.  What we want is to deal with our problems in a different way that gets us a better result. This is not about asking something “out there” to change your life but instead looking inside yourself to change negative into positive.  Accepting responsibility that there is no one but yourself to blame for the plan you have for your life.  The plan wasn’t decided by something outside yourself.  We make the causes that affect us.  If we don’t change these things – especially an inmate – when he gets out he has little chance of doing things different and gravitates back to the life he had.

So I have to think – What has happened?  Most of these guards have such low life conditions.  We read about prison guard brutality more and more in the media. They have no problem hurting inmates just for the pleasure of being able to do it and get away with it. Did he react to something they did and that gave them the reason to want to hurt him?

All I can do is wait while I send him a snail mail.  Today is Saturday.  I tried to call the prison and no one is picking up the phone. Are they closed on Weekends?  That doesn’t make sense.  They have visiting hours today.  I’ll keep trying. On Monday I’ll try again . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. As I build my mailing list for the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings life, Inside The Forbidden Outside, keeping people informed along the way is important. Most of the information in the newsletter is not on this blog. We have a government now more gung-ho on locking up as many people as they can for even longer years.  It is going to affect even more people who will get knocked sideways when they find themselves behind a steel door. Staying informed helps you protect yourself. Yes, it can happen to you, too.

If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

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It’s All About The Free Labor in Texas Prisons

June 1, 2015

Hi mom, I’m doing better today. I got my World Tribune. ( Nichiren Buddhist weekly newspaper) for May 15th. I read the whole paper. There was a lot of good messages and words of encouragement inside.

SGI World Tribune ,Nichiren Buddhist
Nichiren Buddhist weekly newspaper. This is what has helped him stay sane and have hope.

You asked in your letter what I will do to stay busy. Well for starters I’m going to work hard on my temper. I have a lot to think about. I was thinking about what you asked me. You know, about talking to kids when I get out. I would love to do that. I could get on YouTube or Facebook and make videos using a web can and explain to the world what the prison system is like. Because if the families only knew how their family and other people were being treated inside they would understand why so many never make it home. If they make it home they are often in pretty bad shape if they have been abused. How is someone supposed to have a better life if they are scared to be around people?

Families should open their eyes and understand the pain, suffering and all the shit we have to put up with. All because these people have control of our lives more than they should. They have the power to abuse and humiliate us, starve and beat us, which is not part of our sentence. We should not have to live like this. There have been people in here for many years who have never had a case brought against them, but yet when they come up for parole they are still denied their freedom. Why? That’s a damn good question.

free labor at tdcj
photo credit:
tci.tdcj.state.tx.us Inmates can make no money in Texas prisons

But we all know it’s about free labor Texas gets from us. Texas don’t pay anyone no matter what job they do. Why would they want to lose that? They rest of us who can’t work they get paid just for us being here. The Texas prison system says they pay us with good time. However, anyone who comes into the system with aggravated time like me, don’t receive good time. Ain’t that something? For those that do receive it, it can be taken away in a blink of an eye.

Every officer is required to write up a certain amount of cases on inmates. the prison might say that isn’t true, but it is. If they don’t they will be written up by their supervisor. So they have to make stuff up to blame us for. The system is set up so that us inmates can’t win. And this is why so many men of color lose their lives or never make it home. We do have a way to write up officers. We can write a grievance. But get this. There is step one and a step two. There is no doubt that what we write up on step one will be looked over and denied. Every single time. For some odd reason it takes these people 40 days just to deny step one. The warden is the one who does this, of course. Step two goes to the main office in Huntsville. You’d think these people would look into this given that it is part two of a grievance and it has been filed for a reason. Yeah, right. Step two takes 45 days to be investigated. If you add the days together it is almost three months. 85 days which is the same amount of time you get for having a  case written up against you. So they will tell us to write up an appeal against the wrong punishment we were given, taking away our commissary, recreation or our property. No matter what, we will be on punishment that equals the same amount of days it takes to appeal it.

So why appeal it or write it up at all? Because even if we win the appeal we will still would have done the punishment already anyway. All they do is erase the case from our file, maybe. Anyway, I promise you that not too many people win their appeal. One last thing before I end. This is crazy. There is a black lady here who is a captain, and when I say she is dirty that is what  I mean. She’s crazy. She was born in the system. Yes, her mama was locked up when she had her. She told us this. She also has a brother locked up. You’d think she would understand. She said she didn’t give a damn. I wanted to give you something deep about this place. Ill write more later. I’m tired. I’ve been up all day. Also, on top of everything we’re on lockdown again, so I won’t be getting much food to eat.

Till next time, love, your son Jamie

(Sonni’s note: My advice to him is: go through the process any way. If there is a possibility that the case would be taken off his file when he comes up for parole, it might help. I realize that he said that most of the appeals aren’t won, but if you filed enough of them, and they were against the same person you would have your own paper trail that might be useful when it comes time for parole. Food for thought.)

(added later note:  The officer he gave the grievance form to, to file, must have just thrown them away.  He never got the denial so he could file the appeal.  I called the warden and there were no grievances on file from him – but he’ll check on it, he says.  “I can’t have my officers doing that sort of thing.”  He was supposed to get back with me about it, but of course he didn’t.)

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